For All Mankind: Dangerous Liaisons
December 13, 2019 6:06 PM - Season 1, Episode 9 - Subscribe

A crisis in space puts the Apollo 24 and 25 crews in peril.
posted by filthy light thief (20 comments total)
 
OK, I'm sorry. I jinxed it*. After last episode I wrote I'm kind of losing my interest in the series, as it turns into a kind of standard drama ... IN SPAAAACE!

Now it's real drama in space. And on the moon. There's a more diverse cast, and Wayne Cobb is back.

But for this to happen, people had to die. For this, I am sorry. And Ed might have even turned the cold war hot.

* I don't really believe in jinxes.
posted by filthy light thief at 6:09 PM on December 13, 2019 [1 favorite]


The space repair mission was high on drama, really had me on the edge of my seat, even if I have doubts that the spacecraft involved would have acted that way under such circumstance.

Ed is really fucked up. And he really fucked up.

This space stuff is getting to be pretty demoralizing. At this point, it's possible every American in space ends up dead one way or another. Mr.(!) Kennedy is having a tough time of his own. How does the program evolve from here?
posted by 2N2222 at 6:31 PM on December 13, 2019


So much better than last week. I'd been asking, out loud, where Wayne was while Karen was mourning her son. I mean, OK, I get the writers' reasons for having her go find him, but c'mon! I'm actually interested in seeing where Karen goes from here, which is surprising considering how much I'd come to dislike her while she was throwing shade at Tracy. I'm also really happy to see all these scenes with Wayne and Karen where they're just friends who've got a real bond based on their shared experience.

It looks like Ed got handed the toxic masculinity torch from Gordo, eh?
posted by ursus_comiter at 9:47 PM on December 13, 2019


That rescue mission was very Kerbal. Also, I wonder if they are coming back. I guess it might depend on whether the rocket burned until it was dry, or the computer shut it down as if they were still headed for the moon?
posted by surlyben at 9:55 PM on December 13, 2019


the blow-up-three-characters threat felt super real in the opening section, kudos to the show for the fake-out.

the whole rescue attempt and subsequent clusterfuck was super believable. i kind of want to write incredibly dry fanfic of in-universe accident commission reports. i liked the orbital mechanics being there but not over-laboured. i’m glad molly cobb lives!

the ending. holy shit. and ed had been getting increasingly territorial...
posted by sixswitch at 12:28 AM on December 14, 2019


I was alternating between 'this is cool' and 'aargh, my suspension of disbelief has just failed!' throughout this episode. I do love this show - which in terms of its premise could almost have been made for me - but there are times when I think the technical advisers must have just winced and said "OK, well we're just going to have to arm-wave that bit and hope that the actual rocket scientists in the audience will forgive us."

I'm not sure exactly how long an S-IVB could coast in orbit without excessive boil-off of propellants; I suspect the answer would be 'only a few hours' but I'll assume that this is an updated version with better insulation and some sort of active refrigeration system. That's something NASA is currently working on and I can believe that in FAM's timeline this was done much earlier.

Launching a rescue mission in 2 days is also rather optimistic but then we've been told that the Apollo 25 crew have been training for years for a satellite repair mission and the spacecraft was stacked on the pad and ready to go. (Nice accuracy tick-box for it being noted that as a low-orbit mission Apollo 25 is launching on the smaller Saturn IB. The three Skylab crew missions and Apollo-Soyuz don't happen in this timeline, so there would be several spare.)

I've commented before that the show's writers seem to have been mining Soviet space history for inspiration. Here though this looks like FAM's version of the first crewed Skylab mission, which turned into a repair flight after the Skylab orbital workshop lost a solar array and its sunshield during launch. The first attempts at that involved something close to what was shown here, with the Skylab 2 CSM manoeuvring close to Skylab (itself a modified S-IVB stage) whilst one astronaut tried to cut damaged cables away.

The whole 'oops, did we leave the ignition on' accident is where the storyline lost me; it seems so utterly basic that everything would have been isolated and powered down during repairs that even with a rushed scheduled and this alternate-NASA's much laxer approach to safety the scenario seen could never have happened. I'm just going to put this down to dramatic licence and just about possibly explain it as a combination of desperately-abbreviated planning, almost no rehearsal, and separate cockups both in Mission Control and in orbit. Again though, there may be some inspiration from Soviet space history; the 1960 Nedelin Disaster happened when pressure to fault-find on a fully-fuelled missile led to an inadvertent ignition signal to the upper stage.

The retrieval of Molly was another combination of high drama and some actual space science; yes, the US spent much of the Gemini project learning how difficult and counter-intuitive it is trying to rendezvous with another object in a similar orbit. Frankly, from the higher orbit they ended up in I'd be worried that the Apollo 25 crew (especially Cobb, outside the metal hull of the CM) might have ended up in the inner Van Allen belt and got a nasty radiation dose, but that's not an immediate problem. The inadvertent boost from Apollo 24 should have raised the high point of their orbit, so all they need for re-entry is a small fuel expenditure to lower the low point, although I can see that this might mean a landing nearly anywhere.

Are the Apollo 24 crew alive? Well, it looked like Harry got toasted, but if the spacecraft is intact then Deke and Ellen ought to be OK. I suspect it will turn out that the collision damaged their comms, in which case they ought to be able to get in touch once they separate the CSM and deploy its high-gain antenna. But they're now down a CM Pilot and are off course, although the fuel reserve of the CSM and LM should easily be enough to correct that - but will that still allow a landing?

Ed. Oh Ed. This is going to take some explaining, and I don't think the Politburo are going to be in the mood for listening right now. And I'm sorry to admit my brain started rewriting Bohemian Rhapsody on the spot...

Mama, just killed a man
Made the airlock light go red
Hit the depress, now he's dead...

posted by Major Clanger at 1:25 AM on December 14, 2019 [8 favorites]


I would be interested to hear how other non-American viewers got on with this program, as a fundamental part of it seems to be that the flyboys are automatically heroes. The ending of this episode killed any urge I have to watch the rest of the series, as for me - as a non-American, as somebody who isn’t emotionally invested in the idea of the space race - the characters in a fiction have to earn my loyalty. This series has not earned my loyalty, even at this point, and to see one of the ‘heroes’ acting in such a flawed way is not a betray, it’s just another reason not to like the unlikeable jock.
posted by The River Ivel at 2:19 AM on December 14, 2019 [1 favorite]


Now that's drama. Really gripping stuff, kind of a slightly-more accurate version of Gravity, and I loved the silent standoff between the astro/cosmonauts by the crater.

I'm a UK viewer and I've never got the impression the show's trying to paint the astronauts as heroes. Ed and Gordo, our two main flyboys, have been depicted as deeply flawed right from the start; sure, there is nuance to their characters, and they're victims of circumstance like everyone else, but we aren't meant to admire them.

They certainly don't have my loyalty, unlike Margo, Tracy, Ellen, and the other women. Of the leading men, only Deke Slayton comes out looking good.
posted by adrianhon at 3:17 AM on December 14, 2019 [7 favorites]


Regarding Ed's apparent murder, a popular Reddit theory is that he'll repressurise the airlock at the start of the next ep. Maybe? Another theory is that Ed deliberately sabotaged the Russian rover, based on his line of "Oh, did your rover break down? I wonder why?" which makes things even worse. Yet another is that he's hallucinating, which would suck.

It's interesting to see how they've deliberately isolated Ed through the series and got him into a somewhat believeable place where he's emotionally unstable and completely cut off from Mission Control. Clearly there's no way any of this could happen under normal circumstances, but I imagine the conversation in the writers' room was "how can we push this person to breaking point?"

Before this ep, I was wondering where they could possibly take his character, and I imagined some kind of heroic sacrifice in the near future. Perhaps not.

Finally, RIP Harrison, the first Asian man in space. We hardly knew ye.
posted by adrianhon at 3:23 AM on December 14, 2019 [1 favorite]


Consider that one theory is that the bone tossed in 2001 turns into an orbital bomb, not a peaceful satellite. With the way its become so dark, I think this series will end with the discovery of a monolith, making the entire show a prequel.
posted by Sophont at 10:03 AM on December 14, 2019 [1 favorite]


Are the Apollo 24 crew alive? Well, it looked like Harry got toasted, but if the spacecraft is intact then Deke and Ellen ought to be OK. I suspect it will turn out that the collision damaged their comms, in which case they ought to be able to get in touch once they separate the CSM and deploy its high-gain antenna.

I saw a theory elsewhere that the remaining two astronauts are likely unconscious. However, when they wake up and get reoriented they'll be able to take control of the spacecraft and get it headed back to the moon.

this series will end with the discovery of a monolith, making the entire show a prequel.

That would be perfect!
posted by fuse theorem at 2:35 PM on December 14, 2019


They really had me until the last minute. We don't actually see the Russian cosmonaut die and as well all know, first rule of television, if they don't actually, *really* die on screen they are not necessarily dead. So it's possible that this was Ed's fucked up way of knocking the guy out.

But if he really killed him, that's pretty much a jumping the shark moment for me.
posted by KTamas at 5:16 AM on December 15, 2019 [1 favorite]


Oh, and it looks like there was a title change from those originally announced; the on-screen title for this episode is 'Bent Bird'.

(The original was, IMHO, better; I assume it was an allusion both to Ed and the Russians, and to Karen and Wayne.)
posted by Major Clanger at 8:07 AM on December 16, 2019


There's a part of me going "yeah ok so 24's TLI was fooey from not happening anywhere near the right time or orientation or dragging along 25's CSM, but they still have all the fuel in the lunar stage, and the stack looks like they're dragging that up with them and it's not a lunar gateway, so it isn't completely helpless" and yet, although I know the lunar side of the stack isn't the same as the historical side, could the paired CSM/LEM be controlled with the LEM alone? I don't remember if they ever used the LEM's engines in Apollo 13, f'rex, it was all the service module's engine doing the work. I don't remember if that was a contingency scenario or if the LEM's descent stage was too tied to the LEM's AGC and couldn't be controlled by the CSM's AGC. (and/or what the LEM's dV looks like compared to the CSM's TLI dV and whether or not an orbital maneuver could be made to bring them closer to the lunar SOI for a free return etc & so forth, even if a direct abort is out of the question.)

On the other hand, (crossover with a _very small_ bit of The Expanse s04e01), I'm not sure the CSM engine would've had enough deflection to deal with the like 2 goddamn tons of 25 hanging off the side or if they would have just gone into a death spin like Gemini 8 and everybody would've become strawberry jam on the inside of their respective capsules.

And yeah, risk-averse me 100% totally saw that fuckup coming as soon as they started proceeding with testing while people were still in harm's way. Hi, my name's Kyol, I'm a worrier by trade.
posted by Kyol at 10:48 AM on December 16, 2019 [2 favorites]


Wait, that wasn't even the CSM engine, was it, that was still the SIV-B - they hadn't undocked and pulled the lander out of the shroud. Shoot they have _tons_ of options. _tons!_
posted by Kyol at 10:51 AM on December 16, 2019


And they're using 33% less consumables and dropped off 400lbs at least! They're fine. They're _fine_.
posted by Kyol at 11:22 AM on December 16, 2019


Another theory is that Ed deliberately sabotaged the Russian rover, based on his line of "Oh, did your rover break down? I wonder why?"

That was my read when I heard that line; I'm not sure how it's taken otherwise. So, possibly, Ed drove partway to the crater but stayed far back enough to be out of sight. Then once the cosmonaut took the elevator down, he sabotaged his rover and returned to base to wait. I hadn't thought of the idea of using the airlock to just scare/knock out the cosmonaut, but it makes sense given the rest of the level of planning. If we start the next episode with the cosmonaut tied up in Jamestown, I guess that is marginally better. Maybe. Given Ed's state of mind though I give even odds of the cosmonaut's spacesuit impaled on a spike at the crater as a warning.

I was surprised the cosmonauts didn't travel in pairs for excursions. Is it possible there is only the one up there right now? I wouldn't think so since that hasn't been mentioned on the news but it's possible they are not as forthcoming with mission details released to the public.

Also surprised Ed didn't rig up some sort of lock for the elevator system after he found the surveillance device.

At the crater confrontation I was waiting for them to lift their visors to have some level of communication, but I guess that would have messed up the symbolism of the faceless enemy.
posted by mikepop at 12:55 PM on December 16, 2019


This episode has now had me wondering for a week why all science fiction airlocks seem to be designed by space pirates, for space pirates. Real world airlocks are not meant to be murder closets, and if they can be used that way without extensive modification, that strikes me as a gigantic design failure, at best.

In particular, the airlock in this show has pressure controls inside the airlock (it must because it can be used by one person). And it probably doesn't have much in the way of physical door locks, because that adds complexity, and could be a safety hazard. Also, NASA airlocks through at least the 90s tended to be these big mechanical things, so I'm skeptical that a 1975 airlock would be like "push button to kill" and not "turn the giant crank and pull the lever, which is mechanically connected to a crank and a lever inside the airlock, which the cosmonaut is now physically trying to turn the opposite direction. Oh no, now you've broken the airlock. You are dead."

I've also been thinking about how, in the real world, NASA did Skylab in the mid 70s, which studied the effects of long duration living in space, as one of its primary missions. There is zero chance that a moon base wouldn't also have that as a mission goal. Having two of the astronauts come down with space madness is certainly an interesting result. Having all three cover it up is an astonishing failure for people who are as mission-focused as the Apollo astronauts were. Add in that the third broke her own arm to aid the cover up, and it starts to look like everyone on 22 got the space madness.

In any case that makes four Apollos in a row that were outright failures, or at least seriously FUBAR.
posted by surlyben at 10:19 AM on December 19, 2019 [3 favorites]


I've watched the first five minutes of Ep 10 (the rest will have to wait, I have this tedious thing called 'work') and be warned that Apple TV+'s summary contains two spoilers in two sentences. I've started an Ep 10 post with a more generic description.

Also it's evidently an extra-long episode, 75 minutes.
posted by Major Clanger at 10:54 PM on December 19, 2019


Oh and the joke I thought of before watching the next episode is it’s fine, they’ve blasted off into a series of adventures in the future, spanning the universe, Apollo 1999 and all.
posted by Kyol at 4:25 PM on December 22, 2019


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